You know how we artists are always talking about how the pleasures of “making art” outweigh any sort of financial reward? Well, most of the time we think this way… except around the end of the month.
Last night, I was lucky enough to experience one of those true moments of artistic beauty. Art for art’s sake, really.
A few inspirational people from my singing/acting/art/love studio (really one person in particular) have worked to create a group called “B-Sides,” delivering readings of lesser known yet cherished musicals every month. I was fortunate to attend the reading of “The Spitfire Grill” and let’s just say… art for art’s sake completely blew me out of the water.
In one of those classic, mentally-soundtracked epiphanies of joy and love and gratitude and realization, I was proud to be a member of such a creative and talented community. Despite the torrential downpour we all experienced on our way to the studio, despite the glum of the Spring audition season coming to a close, despite my own fears and inhibitions, I felt completely whole and restored after the two hours of art, music, vulnerability and strength demonstrated by my peers. Art for art’s sake! I felt healed and ready for another day.
And thank goodness it’s a lovely 67 degrees outside, low humidity. I think our art fixed everything.
“If you couldn’t do what you are doing now, what would you do?” My customers at table four, enjoying their rosé, seemed genuinely interested in how I would answer the question. “I mean, I know you are traveling the world, performing, and auditioning and stuff here, but what if you couldn’t sing or perform at all? What would you be doing instead?”
This is obviously a question I have asked myself before. Not necessarily when I paused to reflect my choice of profession, but also when trying to identify a way I could possibly live closer to my family and still be a happy individual.
“I don’t know…” I didn’t have much time to stand here chatting, table eight was an irritable couple that would certainly want their bill soon, table thirteen had just sat and needed drinks, five needed dessert, two more people just walked in, and I needed water. “I guess I would be an artist, or a writer, or a personal chef, or maybe I would just own a catamaran and sail around the Seychelles taking rich people on private tours. Or a teacher, or an urban garden director. Or a Mom. I don’t know…” I smiled and starting laughing on the inside, realizing how quickly I had blurted it out, and how ridiculous it sounded. Moving on to table eight, and with a genuine and massive smile, “Would you two like anything else tonight?”
It’s hard to live this transient and somewhat unpredictable life. I am an artist, but at what personal cost? There’s no way of predicting the future, knowing where I’ll be in three months, financial stability is a laughable notion, and let’s just say that taking food orders and wiping olive oil off my hands every day isn’t the most satisfying of all situations. But then those moments of artistry still happen and I am completely satiated.
A trip back to Santa Barbara this last weekend for a dear friend’s wedding was another one of those social moments when one is forced to reflect personal “success” and how to even define the idea. Of course I wish I were in a Broadway show, hell, I’d take off off off Broadway right now. I’d do just about anything I was offered if it sounded artistically aligned with who I am. But my idea of a low moment in my career, when I am just working in a restaurant, auditioning my butt off (and getting callbacks with no offers to follow!), and trying to remind myself to eat healthy and go to the gym so my membership is actually being used… Well it’s not perceived the same way by my friends. “I’m so jealous you’re still in New York!” “You’re so lucky you’ve gotten to travel to so many places by singing!” “Ashley, you really should look into modeling as a side job instead of waiting tables.” (I love this last comment from my dear friend Cynthia.)
And it seems that our successes really are relative. And that the grass is always greener. I certainly had so many pangs of jealousy thinking of my friends that are back in California, that are making a difference in the world with ambitious and astounding careers, that are getting married and starting families. But everyone has their own path, I suppose.
And at this point, my path is a little rocky, a little difficult… But it’s still my path. I surely could imagine myself doing any number of other professions and being happy. Being that personal tour guide in the Seychelles actually sounds ridiculously perfect. But being an artist, bringing joy to audiences (even if it’s few and far between these days), creating moments of beauty… This is what really makes me me. And even in the struggle to achieve “success” in this field, whatever that means, I’m sure I will have stops and opportunities along the way to be an artist (see my apartment), to be a writer (this blog), a personal chef (have you ever had dinner here?), a teacher (I’ve done it before and could do it again), a Mom (someday, for sure)… And I’ll settle with being a tour escort on a Silversea cruise in the Seychelles for that last one.
I have to say, it’s been absolutely wonderful to officially be back in New York City in 2013. My taxes today might disagree with that, but it’s truly one of the most fabulous places to live as an artist. It’s not an easy life, by any means, but it’s definitely interesting. Since being back, it’s been my biggest ambition to ‘land’ as a singer/actor… and one of the unforeseen outcomes has become my reality… the trials and tribulations of not actually sticking any ‘landing.’ Despite acting classes, coachings, private lessons, new headshots, new repertoire, auditioning every week – life has not yet yielded the outcome I was necessarily expecting. Don’t get me wrong, this is not me whining or teetering at the brink of insanity, I’m actually fine with it all because I am learning so much about myself. But time after time, I am coming within inches of booking something. How much longer can one accept that before taking matters into their own hands?
So about a month ago, or so, I decided to start routing the cabaret scene in NYC, trying my hand in these venues and hopefully starting to show people who I am. I decided to channel my thoughts on the difficulty of life as an actor into one character-y piece and, with the help of my dear friend Kelvin, re-wrote the lyrics to a song from Spamalot. It’s gone well the three times I’ve sang it at various clubs, and now TONIGHT I will be singing it at 54 Below as a part of a new competition called “The Callback,” hosted by Christine Pedi. I am beyond excited for another chance to sing at 54 Below (twice in one week!) and thrilled at the possible outcome in this equation = my own cabaret show at 54 Below.
So yes, it’s a little difficult to live this life, but it’s beyond rewarding when small victories come along, such as this. I really hope to move on to the next round of the competition because it is taking place on Monday, May 6th and my parents will be visiting me on that day! So if you have it in you tonight to stay up late and head on down to 54 Below, please come and grab a seat by me!
“The Callback” at 54 Below
254 West 54th Street
Monday, April 15th, 11:30pm, Doors at 11pm
(Show should be about an hour)
$20 food/drink minimum, with happy hour from 11:30-12:30!
Here is me singing at a couple cabarets recently, to give you a sneak peek!
I was chatting today with my friend Sandy (who I’ve been working for since returning to the city and who designs the COOLEST jewelry ever – check out her facebook page here) about the amazing NYC theater experience,Sleep No More. Seriously, I could write pages and pages about how in love with this show I am, but I’ll save that for a rainy day. It’s difficult to explain if you’ve never gone, but it’s an open house cum 360 degree, six floor stage that serves as a setting to a modern and avant garde interpretation of Macbeth. Actors wander the space, creating scenes sporadically and effortlessly, and the “audience,” uniformly clad in spooky masks, voyeuristically inhabits and experiences the world around them. If you’re lucky, and feeling open, you may have the luxury (or personal terror) of a one-on-one experience with an actor or scene. It’s difficult to explain. Basically, get your tickets now. Anyhow, when I went last year, I had not one, not two, but three bizarre experiences that were just for me and my entertainment (or anxiety). Why was I chosen in these different situations? How was I so lucky?
I’ve always been one of the people that tourists, or anyone for that matter, come up to in asking directions, advice, etcetera. I’m generally the one that takes pictures for strangers. That zips up people in Gap dressing rooms. Yes, I shop at the Gap. People frequently ask how they know me because I look familiar “for some reason.” People seem to feel comfortable around me – I’ve had some deep dark secrets confessed to me by people that I hardly know. Whatever all this is, it cracks me up. The more I get to know myself, mainly through my acting classes, singing, living in New York, the more I am realizing that I am truly an “attractive” person. Hear me out. I’m not saying that I’m Charlize Theron. I’m breaking down the literal meaning of the word. Okay – I’ll say it right now: I loathe writers who quote the dictionary – it feels very sixth grade speech competition. (Yes, I used that particular device in my school district second place-winning speech, “I Have A Concern.”) But what exactly does the word “attractive” mean? Cue the cheesy music and groans of all readers donning monocles.
at·trac·tive [uh–trak-tiv] adjective
1. providing pleasure or delight, especially in appearance or manner; pleasing; charming; alluring: an attractive personality.
2. arousing interest or engaging one’s thought, consideration, etc.: an attractive idea; an attractive price.
3. having the quality of attracting.
There’s something outlandish and exciting about this for me. I don’t usually look in the mirror and think, “goddamn I look hot tonight!” But I do often acknowledge the fact that I have amazing people in my life, interesting situations coming at me all the time, artistic opportunities flying at my head, and yes – strangers asking how or from what they know me. That really does make me an attractive person, and knowing this fact is unbelievably energizing. At Sleep No More, I had my bizarre experiences. And I have them every day. I say yes to opportunity and try to remain an open, positive, attractive person. Now. Let’s start attracting that Broadway contract… 😉